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Smart Link Building: quality, quantity and how to get good free links

Backlinks are an important part of getting a site in the top 10 Google for the keywords of your business. I’ve compiled the basic information you need to know before diving deep into this.


SEO speacialists tend to divide links into natural, quality, good and bad. In SEO, these terms are heard quite often.

What are natural and unnatural links?

Natural link building is an oft-used term that many SEO experts regularly devote material to studying. Such links arise naturally, without any manipulation. In this case they are distinguished by:

  • absence of traceable parameters (utm tags);
  • location outside of sponsored or paid content;
  • no redirects through JavaScript or monetization tools.

A natural link usually refers to some content: website or some other source of information, in order to confirm what is being said.

All unnatural links are mined through manipulation: for example, acquired by the hundreds of thousands to push a site in the shortest possible time. Such projects began to be sanctioned, after search engines introduced various algorithms of filtration: pessimization or even removing from the search index. Distinguishing features of unnatural links are:

  • have traceable parameters (such as UTM);
  • are located in the sponsored content on the site;
  • lead to a resource that uses monetization scripts, indicating that they are paid.

What are quality links?

Quality links should come from a trustworthy source. If you purchase a package of 1000 links at wholesale cost, you can hardly call them that, right?

However, the definition of quality has a piece of abstraction and may have a different meaning for each SEO specialist. Usually implied are certain requirements for the site from which you are being referenced. According to studies and surveys of users of linking services, these requirements are usually formulated as follows:

  • the site has a niche and regularly updated on its main topic;
  • the average or high and steadily growing traffic;
  • resource trust scores (DR, CF + TF) of at least 10-30 units;
  • absence of links to resources with illegal information, illegal or clickbait content;
  • mediakit and promotional offers section does not include prices for paid links;
  • the site is tracked on Google News or other news aggregators.

What is a good link?

The fact is that by no means always a link that suites common quality criteria will be successful and optimal for promoting your site. And vice versa – it is possible that it will not be formally of high quality, but will have a positive effect for SEO.

You must be aware that over time, a good link can stop to be such. For example, when a popular site with growing traffic and fresh, relevant content links to you, that’s definitely a good thing. However, if it’s a young site or an author’s blog, you face a certain risk. It is quite possible that the owner will get bored with it after a year, the resource will begin to fade and the link placed will cease to be a profitable investment.

Another example is a young but very slowly growing resource with a strong core of regular visitors and quality relevant content. Theoretically, such a site may show growth in the future – and the effect of the link will increase. Of course, no one can guarantee this, so the SEO specialist will have to act on their own assumptions.

The problem is that there is no universal way to determine a good link for any resource. The quality of the donor site does not guarantee that you will get the expected and long-lasting effect. In this matter, you can only rely on experience and common sense, and make predictions to anticipate possible risks and to find promising donors. You should set up a system for monitoring backlinks to be able to react quickly in case of problems.

How to get quality free links?

If you strive to get free links – this is more than realistic and will save your link-building budget, but will lead to additional time spend. Depending on what type of site you are promoting, you can get them in different ways. So, a very profitable option for commercial portals will be placed in all kinds of electronic directories, yellow pages, business catalogs.

You can also turn to bloggers or resources similar themes to get mentions of your resource in their materials (possibly on a barter basis).

In this case it is useful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can your site be useful and interesting to the link source and its audience?
  • Do you offer truly unique content or solutions for users who will click through to your site?
  • How interesting is the presentation of the content on your resource and is there any unusual feature that immediately hooks the user when he clicks on the link?

The situation is somewhat simplified as your linking profile will accrue mentions from other authoritative resources. The more people link to you, the more likely other sites will agree to link to your content for free.

Also, don’t forget to contact the administrations of the resources that reprint your content. It is important that every mention of your authorship be accompanied by a link and thus contribute to SEO. Each quality material posted on your pages can generate multiple reprints – 20 expert articles can bring 100 or more new free links to your site.

Quantity vs. quality: which wins?

The question of what’s more important in link building strategy – the quantity of links or the quality of links – is also debatable. Chasing the quantity to the detriment of the quality will definitely not lead to anything good. Link spamming can bring your site punished by search engines.

10 years ago, spamming with cheap links was a profitable promotion strategy – this was due to the lack of appropriate algorithms in Google. As soon as they appeared, the approach to link building changed as well.

Natural link growth
Natural link growth

Give your link profile a natural look. To do this, you need to know exactly how it looks from the point of view of the search engine from successful sites that do not do SEO. Such resources get different types of links from a variety of sources. For example, they are referenced by resources of identical or related topics, they are mentioned in articles, social networks and specialized forums.

In this case, the pursuit of only the quality is also fraught with failure to achieve the desired result. For example, quite often newbiee in SEO have a situation where a significant portion of the budget or time is spent on one or two expensive links. He expects from them a significant effect, but the result is completely inconsistent with expectations.

Thus, the balance between quality and quantity in a link building profile is conditional, individual and can only be achieved with experience. Therefore, it is important for SEO-specialist not only to study the research conducted by colleagues, but also a careful consideration of other people’s cases, especially – on sites from the same thematic niche.

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